‘Chaotic’ rollout of third jab has resulted alarming racial inequality, blood cancer charity says
A charity has said there is an “alarming” racial inequality in England for people who are severely immunocompromised and require a third Covid-19 vaccine.
Blood Cancer UK said 84% of immunocompromised people from a white British background had three vaccine doses by mid-December, compared to just 43% of immunocompromised people from a Pakistani background.
It added that the figures were 46% for people from an African background, 47% for people from a Caribbean background and 49% for people from a Bangladeshi background.
The charity analysed the NHS England data following a freedom of information request using stats up until December 14, 2021.
It says while some of the difference in third dose uptake may be because of varying levels of vaccine hesitancy, this does not explain why the gap for third doses is much larger than the gap for the first two doses.
An example the charity gave is a 14% difference in the take-up of the first two doses between White British immunocompromised people (95%) and those from a Pakistani background (81%), but the gap between the two groups’ uptake of the third doses was 41 percentage points.
“Similarly, for the first two doses there was a gap of 11 percentage points between white British people and people from a Bangladeshi background, but for the third dose uptake this increased to a 35 percentage point gap,” it added.
The charity says it believes the main reason for this is the “chaotic and poorly communicated rollout of third doses” for the immunocompromised.
Updated figures from NHS England until January 26 show that 73% of people from an African background, 78% of people from a Caribbean background and 73% of people from a Bangladeshi background have had their third dosage of the vaccine.
Third doses for those who are severely immunosuppressed can also change regularly as a result of the treatments they receive for their illnesses.
Gemma Peters (pictured), chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We know that people from ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is alarming that there is a clear racial disparity in the rollout of third doses for the immunocompromised.
“It means many thousands of people from ethnic minorities who are among those most vulnerable to Covid do not have the protection they would have if their community had been given third doses at the same rate as white British people.
“As a result of this, we fear that immunocompromised people from ethnic minorities who have died of Covid who would have lived if they had been white British.”
Henny Braund MBE, chief executive of the Anthony Nolan charity, said: “This deeply depressing disparity in vaccine uptake in the most vulnerable group needs to be investigated urgently. Our own research shows that minority ethnic stem cell transplant patients face more barriers to accessing care, so it’s clear that there is a gap in accountability for these patients.
“The lack of leadership for people who are immunocompromised has resulted in confusing communication which, as these findings illustrate, particularly impacts minority ethnic patients. Anthony Nolan is urging the Government to appoint a dedicated lead for people who are immunocompromised, so that there is clear guidance and accountability to stop patients from being left behind.”
In November, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review into possible racial and gender bias in medical devices.
The review, which will see UK authorities working alongside the United States, will look at introducing a new international standard to make sure medical devices have been tested on people of different races before widespread use.
NHS England has produced a toolkit to help local operational teams to engage with different communities.
It includes creating resources in different languages and sending letters to immunosuppressed patients who qualify for the third doses and offering them their next dosage as well as their GPs.
A spokesperson from NHS England said: “Uptake among ethnic minority backgrounds has increased significantly since this data was provided, with more than nine in 10 of the most vulnerable eligible individuals having now had their third jab.
“The NHS continues to work with hospital clinicians, GPs and patient charities to identify those who are eligible for a third dose, and now also a booster, to ensure that vaccines are easily accessible and protect those who are severely immunosuppressed.
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